Academic Misconduct

Academic Misconduct

 

The University takes any form of academic misconduct very seriously. In order to maintain academic integrity and ensure that the quality of an Award from the University of Wolverhampton is not diminished, it is important to ensure that all students are judged on their ability. No student should have an unfair advantage over another as a result of academic misconduct; whether this is in the form of Plagiarism, Collusion or Cheating.

When you are in an exam, or preparing coursework you need to make sure that all your information is accurate, that everything you hand in is your own work, and that you have referenced all of your sources properly. By submitting a piece of work, you are declaring to the University that it is your own, and you are responsible for ensuring it comes up to the required standards.

If, when studying for your degree, you commit, or help someone else to commit, academic misconduct, it is an offence in the eyes of the University, and you can be penalised for it. When deciding on a penalty, it will not matter if you intended to commit academic misconduct or not - in fact, many who go before the misconduct panel did not intend to cheat. It is therefore vital that you understand how to avoid academic misconduct, as the maximum penalty for an offence is ultimately exclusion from the University.

 

What is Plagiarism?

Essentially, Plagiarism is using somebody else’s words or ideas as your own: a kind of ‘academic theft’. You cannot use other people’s ideas, words, images and data in your assignments unless you provide full details (reference) of your sources.

Common forms of Plagiarism are:

* Cut or copied and pasted materials from websites

* Copying material from a text book or journal

* Copying from several sources (web, journals and books)

* Copying the work of another student (past or present) 

* Self- Plagiarism (using a piece of work that you have previously submitted again)

* Using quotes from a lecture verbatim (exact same words)

 

In many cases, a student will lift ideas, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs from a variety of sources and "stitch" them together into an essay. This is often referred to as ‘patchwork plagiarism’. This is plagiarism as although the structure and composition is the student’s own work, the words are not. Rules of academic presentation require that whenever a direct quote from a source is used, this should be cited.

You must therefore acknowledge all the sources that you use by using the correct referencing system for your course (eg. Harvard). However, plagiarism is not just about copying and pasting from the Internet or copying direct from journal articles or textbooks without referencing. You also commit plagiarism if you ‘substantially paraphrase’ somebody else’s work. Substantial paraphrasing means taking somebody’s words, without using quotation marks and failing to put them into your own words. This can catch students out. Some students may be tempted to take a text, change only a few words or just the order of the sentences and then put a reference at the end. Be warned! This is still plagiarism in the form of substantial paraphrasing.

 

Plagiarism Detection

The University's current policy on Maintaining Academic Integrity (reviewed June 2018) states that "at Undergraduate level the University will require that all final year projects and dissertations are submitted through text matching software for analysis. At Postgraduate level the University will require that all dissertations (or similar) are submitted through text matching software for analysis."

As well as this, in work where plagiarism is suspected (this could be any piece of work submitted), students can be required to electronically submit their original work for the purpose of checking it through the software. Overall, this process is important to maintain individual students’ academic integrity by checking the originality of submissions.

To understand how the text matching software is used; when an electronic copy of your work is put through it, an originality report (OR) will be generated. The OR gives an indication, in percentages, of how much of the submission has been taken from other sources.  Depending on the subject studied, different percentages may be acceptable. Due to this, the University has not set an institutional cut off percentage level. Your tutors can advise you on how your subject OR may be interpreted.

It is important to note that if you use a personal version of text matching software to check your dissertation / project before submission, it is possible it will store your submission in the same database that the University's software will check when assessing your final submission. So please check your settings on your personal version.

It’s also worth remembering that tutors are experts in their subjects- they will KNOW the book / paper / website you are referring to. They may even have written it themselves!

 

What is Collusion?

The University of Wolverhampton’s Regulations and Procedure for the Investigation of Academic Misconduct (September 2015) defines collusion as:

‘Collusion is when two or more people combine to produce a piece of work for assessment that is passed off as the work of one student alone. The work may be so alike in content, wording and structure that the similarity goes beyond what might have been coincidence. For example – where one student has copied the work of another, or where a joint effort has taken place in producing what should have been an individual effort.’

Common forms of Collusion include;

* My friend said I could use their work

* My friend was struggling and ask to see my work "as a reference"

* I took my friend’s work without them knowing - Stealing = Cheating

* Sharing ideas too closely - using similar quotes or structures to your friends

* Group Work - only work in a group if you've been asked to!

 

Even in situations where the work has been stolen, both students may still be accused of Collusion. The onus will be on each student to prove what has happened and that the work was 100% their own - and you may still get penalised if it is found you didn't secure/ protect your work properly, allowing it to be taken - However, if you do believe you work has been taken, contact your module leader straight away, preferably ahead of submission.

 

What is Cheating?

Cheating is defined as any attempt to gain unfair advantage in an assessment by dishonest means.

Common examples of cheating would include:

* Being in possession of “revision notes” during an examination

* Breach of examination regulations

* Copying from the work of another student

* Stealing another student's work

* Prohibited communication during an examination

* Unauthorised possession/ use of electronic devices (this includes having a phone on your person during an examination, whether it is turned on, used, or not)

* Submitting essays downloaded from the internet

* Commissioning an assessment from a third party

* Impersonation of another student

 

The University’s exam regulations for students can be found on the University of Wolverhampton's website here. We recommend that all student familiarise themselves with exam regulations, ahead of taking their first exams.

 

Avoiding Academic Misconduct

'Academic Misconduct: The pitfalls and how to avoid them' is a guide written by the University and the Students' Union to give you the knowledge and confidence to both avoid being accused of academic misconduct and improve your assessment grades.

 

University of Wolverhampton Learning and Information Services run a full programme of Skills for Learning workshops covering a range of topics in support of your studies (including such areas as: finding and evaluating information, referencing, academic writing, assignment planning and staying up-to-date in your subject area).

 

The University’s current Policy and Regulation for the investigation of Academic Misconduct can be found HERE

 

Defending an Accusation of Academic Misconduct

The first you may know about an accusation of academic misconduct is when an 'AM0' appears next to your results on e:vision.  This is your first indication that you may be called in for a meeting to discuss an allegation of Academic Misconduct for that assessment. An Academic Misconduct Hearing with the Conduct & Appeals Unit forms part of the investigation into an accusation of Academic Misconduct.

You will usually receive a letter inviting you to attend a hearing, giving a date and time at which you should attend. The letter should give information about which piece of work is affected and the type of misconduct that you are suspected of.

When you attend a hearing in person, Conduct & Appeals Unit will present its evidence an ask for your comment on this. Where the evidence clearly demonstrates you have committed misconduct, even if you didn't realise until this moment and didn't mean to do it, it is important that you are honest in your discussion with the hearing panel. 

Hearings will not be rescheduled unless there is a valid reason, supported by documentary evidence.  If you don’t attend a decision will be taken in your absence. You will be advised that you can bring one person with you to provide support this could be a friend, family member or request representation from the Students’ Union.

If you are off campus (study abroad for example) you will usually receive your letter by email, inviting to send in a statement for the panel to consider in your absence. All you can do at this stage is write a statement for consideration, ahead of the panel meeting and you should do this by email to conductandappeals@wlv.ac.uk by the date given in your letter.

If you genuinely don’t know what you have done you should state this and ask the panel to consider your previous good record. However, in our experience, if you submit a statement, the panel may be more sympathetic, but it is likely that a penalty will still be applied.

You will not normally be invited to an Academic Misconduct hearing unless there is a body of evidence to support the suspicion of academic misconduct.

You will be informed of the severity of this once the panel has met to consider the evidence.

 

Common causes of Academic Misconduct unfortunately do not excuse it. Examples include;

 

* I’m new to the English education system / I’ve been out of education for many years

* I started late and missed the Research Methods and Study Skills lectures.

* I didn't have enough time to do my work. It was rushed.

* My lecturer saw my work before I submitted it and they didn’t tell me that I had committed Academic Misconduct when they saw it.

* I had a lot of personal issues at the time.

* I didn’t think they would copy my work; we’ve been best friends for years.

* I accidentally submitted a draft of my work.

 

What to Expect of a Misconduct Hearing


Before the Hearing

Confirm that you will attend by contacting the Conduct and Appeals Unit - details of how to do this will be in the letter.

Check the time and location of the hearing– make sure you know where you have to go.

Notify the Conduct and Appeals Unit immediately if you do not wish an audio recording to be made, so that a note taker can be arranged instead.

Notify the Conduct and Appeals Unit immediately of any Special Needs that should be accommodated within the conduct of the hearing, so that arrangements can be made.

Prepare yourself by seeking advice from the Students’ Union Advisers. If you wish to have an attendee from the Students’ Union with you, this must be arranged in advance by bringing your letter into the Advice Centre or otherwise, sending in an online query via www.wolvesunion.org/advice/enquiry This service will depend on availabilty.

Thoroughly review your own copy of the work in advance of the hearing and identify any areas that you think may have given rise to the suspicion of academic misconduct. Eg - are there any un-referenced passages or any substantial paraphrasing (plagiarism)? Could this work be similar/identical to that of another student? (collusion)

Once you consider the circumstances at the time you did the work; it is very likely that you will have some insight into what may have gone wrong.

 

The Hearing

An Academic Misconduct Hearing is a formal meeting. You should be aware that the University of Wolverhampton is committed to upholding academic standards and takes academic misconduct very seriously. Please arrive on time, or ahead of time if you have arranged to meet a representative beforehand.

You will be introduced to the Panel members.  At a Stage One hearing the panel will consist of two or 3 staff, including a senior academic representative from the School to which the module belongs and the Deputy Head of the Conduct and Appeals Unit.

You will be informed that an audio recording of the hearing may be made for the purpose of accurate record keeping. If an audio recording is not being made there will also be a note taker present. Only members of the panel will address you directly during the hearing. You will be asked to confirm your identity and advised to speak clearly for the recording/note taker.  If you have bought somebody with you for support, you will also be asked to confirm their identity for the record.

It will be explained to you that the University applies the “civil” burden of proof which requires upon examination of the evidence, a demonstration that it is more likely than not that academic misconduct has occurred.

 

The Panel will then discuss with you, your understanding of plagiarism /collusion /cheating (depending the nature of the suspected academic misconduct to be addressed).

The Panel may ask you a range of questions, to establish an understanding of the circumstances surrounding the suspected academic misconduct.

You will be shown the evidence under consideration and the Panel will discuss this with you.

If it becomes obvious to you why the academic misconduct has occurred, we would recommend that you admit this early on in the proceedings so that the Panel can focus on advising you of the consequences and on how you can avoid it in the future.

 

Can others speak on my behalf?

Your friend/family member/Students’ Union officer is there to provide you with support and should not normally address the Panel directly. However, they may consult with you and you can ask for “time out” (either inside or outside of the meeting room) to discuss any relevant matters. For example they may wish to remind you of something you had forgotten to say.

 

What happens next?

You may be informed of the possible outcome of the hearing during the meeting. However, the Panel are required to consider and evaluate both the evidence and your comments fully before coming to a decision and this may require further deliberations outside of the hearing.

 

The Conduct and Appeals Unit will formally advise you of the outcome by letter and by email to your University email account; this will normally be sent within 7 working days of the hearing.

The letter will confirm whether or not the Panel found the case proven and if so it will clearly state the penalty to be imposed and may also contain further advice where appropriate.

The penalty applied will be in line with the University's policy on Academic Misconduct Penalties found on pages 9-11 in the Regulations and Procedure for Academic Misconduct.

 

You may find it helpful to discuss the outcomes of the hearing with the Students’ Union after the event.

Depending on the nature of the penalty you may also need to seek academic advice from the School or Student Registry with regard to your programme of study.

 

The Conduct and Appeals Unit maintain a record of all academic misconduct. Penalties for academic misconduct are progressive and repeated offences can lead to exclusion from the University.

 

Penalties for Academic Misconduct

To ensure that all students are treated fairly, penalties are applied consistently in similar cases where an investigating panel has determined that a student has committed an offence.

 

For full information on the penalties that can be applied and how the decisions are made, please see pages 9 to 11 of the University's Regulations and Procedure For The Investigation of Academic Misconduct (Sept 2015).

 

If you have any questions about these, please contact the Advice and Representation Centre at the Students' Union.

 

Appealing a Penalty

Students have the right to appeal against the decision reached by a Stage One hearing, however they MUST have grounds to do so. The grounds are limited to:

 

* An administrative error or material irregularity has occurred in the conduct of the investigation.

* Personal circumstances which  would have affected the decision taken by the panel had they been made aware of them (with good reason as to why this was not revealed the at the Stage One hearing)

 

Appeals must be made within twenty working days of the receipt of the letter which informs the student of the penalty imposed and should be made in writing to the Conduct and Appeals Unit

All students should contact the Advice and Representation Centre for help and guidance if they think that they have grounds for a Stage 2 appeal.